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Thursday, December 29, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: The New Face of Home Design (an essay by guest wr...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: The New Face of Home Design (an essay by guest wr...: photocourtesyswedishfurniturecom Friends and blog readers, The economic down turn in America has influenced the face of design and...

The New Face of Home Design (an essay by guest writer Mary Douglas Drysdale)


Friends and blog readers,

The economic down turn in America has influenced the face of design and will continue to do so in the coming years.  The look and feel of today's home is the extension and reflection  of a broader range of attitudes and sensibilities.  In the year to come expect to see in the pages of magazines and on the boards of designers a more streamlined, simple and direct aesthetic. Perhaps once again, Le Corbusier's famous credo "Less is MORE" may become the tag line of the coming decade.

Everyone I know is paring back - wanting less in their interior spaces, this translating into fewer objects and a decidedly unfussy look. The excesses of the 80's, and the hard-edged minimalism of the 90's are no longer relevant at this time.  It seems that the Modernist tendencies of the last many years has given way to a warmer and softer look. The biggest shift between what we call 'current' or 'contemporary' today, and Modernism, is the architectural environment itself. I find that my clients are now interested in a more traditional architectural setting with attractive moldings and defined rooms. I would go so far a to say that the  room itself is now king. Decoration is not wanting to take over and fill any and every surface; the look of today is soft, ecclectic, and comfortable. Art and object are better balanced.

It is the beginning of a Neo-traditional time where the simplicity of the modernist aesthetic, unpretentious, clean and lean mixes with the traditional architectural details and ideas. The notion of taking an older home and stripping out the detail, while never a good idea in my view, has been a strong trend in the remaking of the urban household. Today, most are approaching their home improvement projects with a eye to preservation. The house of today reflects a continium of history, family and time, not just a snap shot in time.  I am excited about the many projects scheduled for 2012, and relish the opportunity of new challenges in the coming year.

Mary Douglas Drysdale

Mary Douglas Drysdale,
Principal, Drysdale Interiors

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THINK GLOBALLY, BLOG LOCALLY, ' an essay by gu...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THINK GLOBALLY, BLOG LOCALLY, ' an essay by gu...: photocourtesydmitrikblog ' THINK GLOBALLY, BLOG LOCALLY ' You pick up a newspaper or turn on the nightly news, what do you see and he...

' THINK GLOBALLY, BLOG LOCALLY, ' an essay by guest writer Lowell Feld



You pick up a newspaper or turn on the nightly news, what do you see and hear? A bunch of bad stuff you (seemingly) can’t do a damn thing about – massacres in Syria, economic crisis in Europe, a U.S. budget deficit seemingly out of control, gridlock in Congress, on and on it goes.

You think to yourself, I’ve tried before and it didn’t work. I voted for change in 2008, but now all I seem to see is more of the same. I wrote to my Congressman about legislation I wanted passed, but it died in committee. I even went down to a rally on the National Mall, along with tens of thousands of others who felt (roughly) the same way, and the result was…the same ol’ same ol’ situation, as far as I can tell.

In other words, at this point you find yourself any or all of the following: cynical, jaded, disillusioned, disappointed, frustrated, exasperated, and generally resigned to not having any impact on the way things go in our country. Why even bother?  Why not just focus on your job, your family, your life, and try to ignore everything else?  Why be an active, engaged citizen of a country whose political system only seems to listen to the wealthiest, most powerful, and best connected?

These are all fine questions, as far as they go. The problem is, they entire way of thinking is, in the end, counterproductive not just for the country (and the planet) as a whole, but also for the specific issues you care about – a healthy environment, GLBT equality, a fair and just society, a woman’s right to choose, you name it. Opting out, sticking your head in the sand, wallowing in cynicism and despair: all of those might be tempting options when we get frustrated and cynical. However, they’re simultaneously the greatest gift we can give to the entrenched, powerful, wealthy special interests whose greatest wish is for “the masses” – that’s you and me, the 99% - to stick their heads in the sand and let them – the 1% - run things. To my way of thinking, that’s not acceptable.

So what do we do about this situation?  I don’t have a quick-fix answer, but one thing I do know is this: if we want to have an impact, the best place to do it is at a more local level, where our voice is proportionally much stronger, than at the national or international level, where are voices are just one in 7 billion (and counting).  What I decided to do, for instance, after John Kerry lost to George W. Bush in 2004, was to get involved at the state level. Among other things, I started a blog, called “Raising Kaine,” back in January 2005. The unofficial slogan of that blog, and of my subsequent political blog “Blue Virginia,” was “Think Globally, Blog Locally.”

Did it work? It’s hard to measure these things, of course, but after the 2005 elections, in which my progressive activist friends and I helped to “blog Tim Kaine into the Virginia governor’s mansion,” Kaine himself told several of us, in a reception at the governor’s mansion, that he was grateful for our efforts, and that it made a big difference. In 2006, we undertook a seemingly quixotic effort to “draft” former Reagan Administration Navy Secretary James Webb to run for U.S. Senate against George Allen. Most people said it was hopeless, but guess what? That’s right, the “draft” succeeded, Webb ran and won the primary (despite getting outspent something like 6:1 by the institutional candidate), then went on to win the general election and help take back the U.S. Senate for Democrats. After that election, Webb and his senior strategist, Steve Jarding, both made it clear that our efforts – and when I say “our,” I’m talking about the 14,000-strong “ragtag army” of volunteers for Webb - made all the difference, and that without us, Webb probably wouldn’t have even gotten on the ballot, let alone knocked off an incumbent Senator with a huge war chest and a 30+ point lead in the polls.

The bottom line is this: acting locally, at the state or county or city level, your voice and power are much stronger, relatively speaking, than at the national or international level. Here in Arlington, Virginia, for instance, an upcoming Democratic caucus for a County Board vacancy will probably only draw 4,000 voters, or just 2% of Arlington’s population. Given that there are six candidates running, it’s very possible that the winner might garner under 1,000 votes, winning by dozens of votes or even fewer. Thus, your vote, and your involvement in either running for office yourself, or working to support one of the candidates, could easily make the difference in choosing the next Arlington County Board Member for Life (once elected, these people rarely lose in “solid blue” Arlington).

But what difference will THAT make, the cynical voice in your head asks? Well, depending on what your priorities are – from fair housing to gentrification to immigration to green buildings to stormwater runoff to…whatever you care most about - it could result in significantly different outcomes, for better or for worse, in the county. Also, perhaps – just perhaps – if it works at the county level, and is seen to work by others in neighboring jurisdictions, it might spread beyond the local level to the state, and even the nation? Hey, you never know until you try. And yes, just based on the numbers alone, your ability to make a big difference at the local or state level is a lot greater than at the national or international level. Will doing so change the world? Perhaps, perhaps not. But, at the least, perhaps it might help change your attitude a bit for the better?  Perhaps you’ll “just” have some fun, “only” make a bunch new friends, and “merely” feel more connected to your community?  There are worse things that could happen. Or, perhaps your actions at the local level could start the proverbial butterfly’s wings beating, ultimately resulting in a hurricane in the halls of Congress – or beyond? One thing’s for sure: you’ll never know until you try.

Monday, December 26, 2011




an essay by Sam Parry

can only be viewed by visiting the blog site at

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR / EASILY GREEN (An essay b...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR / EASILY GREEN (An essay b...: landscape#6bywalterhelena Friends and blog readers, I hate the word tree-hugger. For one thing, I’ve been an environmentalist all ...

WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR / EASILY GREEN (An essay by guest writer Sam Parry)


Friends and blog readers, 
I hate the word tree-hugger. For one thing, I’ve been an environmentalist all my life and have never once hugged a tree. For another, it’s just one more little way that the nitwits undermine common sense dialogue about important environmental issues and marginalize conservation.

“Oh, don’t listen to him, you know – he’s just a tree-hugger.”

It really shouldn’t be that way. In fact, going green is so easy and beneficial that you really are a nitwit if you don’t try.

Just think. The next time you're shopping for a car, and you're down to two or three choices, simply buy the more fuel efficient one. If you drive it 100,000 miles, and you get 30 miles to the gallon instead of 27, you've just saved yourself nearly $1500 (at $4/gallon) and saved the planet 370 gallons of gas, which eliminates about 7000 pounds of carbon dioxide [].

Or, how about this – if you’re a meat-eater, try one fewer meat-based meals per week. According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency [], if we all transitioned to a low-meat diet of 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per week, we could free up 15 million square kilometers of farmland. And according to the Environment Working Group [], if a family of four gave up eating steak for just one day a week, it would save as much climate pollution as taking their car off the road for three months.

Oh, and by the way, eating less meat and more vegetables is also a lot healthier.

Safer, greener, biodegradable cleaning products reduce human exposure to toxic chemicals.

Switching to compact florescent lightbulbs saves energy and money – and the trace amount of mercury in CFLs is much less harmful to the environment than the coal used to generate much of our electricity.

Taking public transportation cuts down on gridlock, is healthier for you (more walking never hurt anyone), reduces pollution, and often saves money – especially if you consider the wear and tear on your car, parking and fuel costs, and the opportunity to lengthen the life of your car by saving the mileage and avoiding the stop and go driving.

And it’s just as easy to support local and national environmental organizations (like Environmental Defense Fund, the one the pays my salary), with an annual donation and thereby adding your voice to regular advocacy opportunities, both online and off.

Life is hard. Work. Kids. Networking. Travel. Planning for retirement, college, and inevitable health costs.

All of it wears you down. But, going green is easy. Simple, in fact.

Kermit the Frog was a childhood favorite. But, he had it wrong. It’s very easy to be green!!

Don’t be a nitwit . . .  


Sam Parry,
Environmental Defense Fund

Saturday, December 24, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: (almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Architects Working Under ...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: (almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Architects Working Under ...: photocourtesyrentromeapartmentscom Peeps, Ever since meeting Cathleen Curtin (CA, AIA) in 2004, I have closely watched as her list...

(almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Architects Working Under the Radar / Cathleen Curtin



Ever since meeting Cathleen Curtin (CA, AIA) in 2004, I have closely watched as her list of accomplishments steadily increases, and am pleased by her success.  And have often wondered where and how does she find the time and energy to keep producing noteworthy projects in the Washington metropolitan area, as well as in California.  Just the thought of packing a week-end bag causes me no small amount of anxiety, much less trying to manage projects on both coasts.  I have to hand it to her, cause she seems to do it quite well, all the while charming and gracious in SOHO chic apparel and perfectly groomed.  Alas, tonight's essay promised by Ms Curtin was not possible because of a heavy work schedule these past months, and I had to console myself with a short interview yesterday.  Still, it went quite well, and we are quite lucky to have had the time together.  I am sure that you will all enjoy our all too brief discussion, as well as find it refreshingly candid.


Shane:  You somehow manage to juggle multiple projects, without collapsing or turning into a monster.  How do you manage to stay calm and focused, traits which several of your clients have commented on?

Cathleen:  Each day must start with love + calm followed by excitement in starting the day. The pup and I dash off on our daily morning walks for fun + balance in nature where I sort out the day. ... What can change here, this will do better there. I love moving the puzzle pieces of form + function around to explore the interchange, finding the best solution.

Shane:  What makes a good project; is it client, designer, timing, circumstances, or just plain luck??

Cathleen:  A good designer has to be the catalyst by which clients realize their dreams and as that catalyst I am there to exceed their imagination. My value is is listening and translating my client’s vision into a style that is exceedingly beautiful and livable with all the comforts of home.  Everyone has a wish to transform their environments and I have the eye, the tenacity and the esprit de joie to make it happen and champagne never hurts!

Shane:  Some in your field are faulted for being arrogant, egotistical, and more concerned with the trophy house, or trophy museum; do you worry about staying relevant, appearing avante-garde?  What tempers the urge, if any, to pull out all the stops on any give project?

Cathleen:  Having studied under Robert Stern and Michael Graves I have learned quality, balance and proportion matter greatly and that classical forms with our American freshness to be uplifting for so many.  I have clients now living in an Arlington bungalow that I worked on 7 yrs ago. The kids have left,  and now we are turning the house back to the adults.  We are embarking on a creative journey.  I often find inspiration within their home, every clients home, and their way of life . . . it is all around us. My goal is to create a new and invigorating space in which they find comfort and refuge.  The style of individual projects may differ, yet the underlying concern with appropriateness, both in design and function, is a driving force behind what I do.

Shane:  Do you look at the work of other architects for inspiration?  How did you get started in this field?

Cathleen:  I believe I was inspired by my parents who were serial renovators. And now, shelter magazines, and trips to the museums are a large part of my dream-life.  Then, travel, gardens and fabulous trips to New York and Paris.  Our own DC has always inspired me towards the next new beautiful thought.   Art and architectural history abound with the beauty of the ages, so why not imbue others’ lives with this beauty.  The Pantheon, Roman ruins, as well as the creations of Robert Stern and Michael Graves inspire me to reach greater heights, and so I do just that.

PS:  More about Cathleen Curtin, RA AIA, can be found at her website,  (

Thursday, December 22, 2011

(almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Architects Working Under the Radar / Eric Colbert



It seems that architects who toil within the boundaries of the District receive little praise for their efforts.  The casual observer or visitor can almost rightfully dismiss many of our downtown buildings as being bland, unless he or she is aware of the months of wrangling necessary to acquire a building permit.  Here, in Washington DC, neighborhood advisory boards/historic preservation societies/the State Department/Homeland Security/FBI, perhaps also CIA/other federal and stage agencies/developers/architects/builders/anchor tenant(s)/any elected official with an interest/the general public/the press/any architect of renown, as well as any architecture student/intern, and the boyfriend/girlfriend/mistress/long-time call-boy of anyone remotely involved with the project, can weigh in with their prejudices/whims/demands/
suggestions/fears/concerns and every remembered (or imagined) grievance; thus they impede the journey from the initial meeting, to preliminary sketches and blueprints, to ground-breaking, and completion of any project ranging from a two story row-house to a multi-billion dollar, multiple city block(s) construction.  Only a desperate, deranged, delusional or egotistical professional would daily subject themselves to this thankless game -- meaning, the endeavor of being a practising architect in the District of Columbia.   Or perhaps someone like Eric Colbert.

I had plans to highlight the prolific, though publicity-shy Eric Colbert in this week's series devoted to little-known talent.  Bernice (our sometimes brittle editor) had the satisfaction of pointing out that I was too late; Eric Colbert had recently been covered in the Washington City Paper by Lydia DePillis, in the Oct 28 issue.  " So it's all done!  And nothing left to say, and now what?' she said smugly.  Well, she had a good point there, as the newspaper's coverage of Eric was pretty thorough, and summed up his history in the city, as well as pointed out the numerous buildings that he and his talented staff of over 21 junior architects had completed in the last ten years.  And his unusual success in obtaining building permits, and a reputation for staying within budget.  While Ms DePillis was able to provide some insight into Mr Colbert's personal life and his love for kayaking (and work), only readers of this blog will be privy to the fact that he and I both share a deep interest in natural gardens, and contemporary art, particularly renowned painter and print-maker Tom Nakashima.  

Tonight, as I studied some of Nakashima's earlier paintings, I began to understand a little more why they may appeal to Mr. Colbert.  In addition to being quite monumental in scale (some range from 15-30 feet wide) quite a number of them feature architectural structures--sanctuaries--silhouetted against a curved horizon line, carefully demarcated by the use of oils/glazes/gesso/newsprint and handmade-paper, and gold-leaf paper.  A frequent motif is the salmon, singularly floating through time and space.  And yet, realistically, salmon rarely float, instead they swim, purposely that is.  Curator Lynn Schmidt wrote that Nakashima employs the image of a salmon, which stands as a male warrior, a wanderer, a seeker.  In some Asian cultures, particularly China, ' . . . there is a special significance to a single fish.  One fish suggests a solitary or lonely person, perhaps a widow, an orphan, or a bachelor . . . Because it lives in water, that place of no boundaries, a fish can travel widely and easily in a way that suggests all possibilities.' 

The fascination that Tom Nakashima's paintings hold for Mr Colbert (who is an devoted collector) may remain a private affair, yet I clearly see parallels between Eric's calm, unhurried movements (and subsequent professional success), and that of the salmon which seasonally swims upstream, determined to reach a destination, irrespective of danger and peril.  It seems that both are driven--inherently so-- to a personal destiny, of which only they are aware.

Life imitating Art, or, Art illustrating Life.  

Please visit the Washington City Paper archives for a wonderfully written article on one of our most devoted peeps.  Also, visit Tom Nakashima's website ( to learn more about this accomplished artist, and to view some of his amazing paintings, prints, and sculptures.  Hope you are all enjoying this week's peep-show.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: (almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Designers Working Under t...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: (almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Designers Working Under t...: photocourtesystartdesigningblogspot Peeps, At this time of the year, we are treated to the ' Best of 2011's _______' and ' 100 Best ...

(almost) ALMOST FAMOUS: Designers Working Under the Radar / Iantha Carley



At this time of the year, we are treated to the ' Best of 2011's _______' and ' 100 Best Designers/Actors/Actresses/Movies/Albums/TV Shows/Books/Corporate Logos, ' and so forth.  I guilty admit to eagerly searching for my faves, and being disappointed or miffed if they fail to appear as noteworthy in their respective category or field.  Yes, there is nothing more thrilling than being included in the celebratory lofts of whatever profession in which one daily labors.  Especially the little perks like event passes, 'free' samples, and hottie interns waiting outside your doors; or the bigger perks such as more projects (with larger budgets).  Earlier this year,  I visited the Washington DC Design Showhouse 2011 and was quite surprised by the tremendous local talent who live and work within the Beltway.  Sadly, many of these talented individuals are ignored by the national shelter magazines who prefer to focus on the excesses of Malibu, Park Avenue penthouses, or ultra-modern masterpieces overlooking Miami Bay.  One of my favorite FB friends, namely LA designer Judson Rothschild, faulted AD in its annual 100 Best for recycling the same old names (yet again!!), and I wholeheartedly agree.  Love to see some fresh talent(s) included in this venerable roster of industry luminaries.  Of the many rooms beautifully decorated for the DC Showhouse, I especially loved a bedroom and sitting room designed by Iantha Carley of Iantha Carley Interiors.  Her use of color and pattern was bold and confident, she displayed a sound understanding of the nuances of design and aesthetics, as well as seamlessly incorporated varied cultures and periods.  I was fortunate to meet her in person, and after chatting, I left quite thrilled at meeting the talented and gracious Ms Carley.  As part of this week's Peep-show entitled ' (almost) ALMOST FAMOUS,' I asked her to write an article for us, to which she kindly agreed.

Please enjoy,

I’ve always been an avid doodler. For me, it isn’t an issue of idleness. It is more of a fascination of the complexities and combinations of shapes and textures and how they play off one another. I have a lot of artists in my family and I view this ability as my art form. 
I always bring this fascination to all of my design projects. It’s important to bring something unexpected to the space. Mixing patterns, textures and color, which, on their own, may seem a bit off. But once everything is pulled together, it makes brilliant sense. I like to call it sophisticated whimsy. It takes the serious edge off, but is comfortable and elegant in a non-traditional way. 

David Hicks has been a great influence in my design aesthetic. I remember the first time I saw an ad he appeared in for JP Stevens sheets (they weren’t called “linens” in the 70’s). I was immediately drawn to his skillful mix of patterns and color in one room. His rooms were never boring and are timeless. The key is always to make the design look effortless with no contrivances.  Contrivance is one of my pet peeves. It comes from over thinking a design or creating spaces that aren’t really “real”. When clients say their inspiration for a space is a hotel room or a spa, I cringe. I can’t think of anything more depressing than living in a hotel room for the next ten years! Also, how impersonal are those types of spaces. I know what my clients really want is a grown up space that doesn’t look like their parent’s homes. They are also looking for an escape from the chaos of their lives. I achieve this by embracing their lives and creating rooms they really use and are approachable. Rooms that are beautiful and soothing, but have an ease that you can put your feet on an ottoman, or bring a soda into the room appeal to my design sensibilities.

The easiest thing in design is to prepare a floor plan and back up a truckload of furniture to a house. The hard part is creating the sense of home. This past Thanksgiving, one of my clients called me to say they had had family over and I got a huge compliment. It was from their 18 year-old nephew, who was amazed at the transformation of their home. If an 18-year old “Lax Bro” tells you your house really looks nice, I know I’ve done my clients well. That’s a story that makes me smile.

Iantha Carley
Principal, Iantha Carley Interiors

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: The Peep-Show presents ' 8 Reasons to Love Hannuka...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: The Peep-Show presents ' 8 Reasons to Love Hannuka...: photocourtesyofshoeteasecom 8 Reasons to Love Hannukah!!!! The very thought of giving or receiving these random gifts makes me deliri...

The Peep-Show presents ' 8 Reasons to Love Hannukah' by guest writer Janine Davey


8 Reasons to Love Hannukah!!!!

The very thought of giving or receiving these random gifts makes me delirious with excitement......some "over the top", some staid.....but  fun and generous in my opinion

1) A stunning , insanely gorgeous orchid from either local floral designer Greenworks or Le Printemps, coincidentally near to one another down in the hot new West End area of what is going on there as it always evokes memories of my days at GWU, not appreciating that I lived off campus and did my weekly food shopping at the now closed Safeway at The Watergate. Both shops do a terrific job....and at one point I was fortunate to have orchids from both on my coffee table....they were equally as spectacular!!!

2) A beautiful pen..... one with heft and gravitas. Tiffany does a couple of pretty, feminine styles,( I misplaced mine)...... I purchased a monogrammed ballpoint Montblanc for a friend,( he mentioned that the Cartier I had given him was a bit of a hassle leaking ink in his shirt pockets, oy vey!). A quality writing instrument may be considered extravagant or superfluous by some, but I is a necessity.

3)Have you smelled Tom Ford's Black Orchid fragrance????? You must if you haven't....Tom is quite calculating in his ventures....and this one is a winner!!!! (BTW, I hear the lipstick rocks too!). You or someone you love will appreciate this heavy, floral scent. I own Fracas, but this takes your olfactory senses to a whole new place! As soon as my tester runs out I am off to Saks!!!!

4)The Cartier Love bracelet is a piece that is catching my eye these days...tried and true. I have seen it worn by male/female with style. It is a times I have thought it to be the type of "coming of age" gift that a high school senior is given by upper middle class Mom and Dad...after much filp flopping on the subject, I believe it is a classic, timeless piece that one should strive to include in a varied collection. Some readers may disagree...... I know I wish I had one to lock on for life.....

5)The somewhat ubiquitous MiuMiu sparkly or satin shoe boots.....have you seen them? They can take an ordinary outfit to a whole new level. Do not upgrade or buy a whole new ensemble....just these shoe/boots.....Done! You have actually saved money because you will not be running around at the last minute looking for a "holiday outfit".....hmmmm, perhaps I need to take my own advice???? 

6) The Christ Child Opportunity Shop in Georgetown.... I really love this place!!!! Oversize silver platters, silverware and containers that will impress. They stock a revolving variety of interesting, second hand amazing pieces. The inventory is always changing, but check it out! The off beat art, pitchers, decanters.... I am always pleasantly overwhelmed.

7) Drinks at the Round Robin at The Willard......regal, busy and totally DC!!!! Even better if the carolers are down there.

8) Chocolate.....I have a special appreciation for the "good stuff"....I think there are purported health benefits too. There is a new shop that I have intended to try, a husband and wife team around P street in Georgetown....Les Fleurs? I am no longer fearful of the fat or calories as this is the time to live, enjoy and revel in the fact that we have this incredible community of friends and family. We have survived, literally and figuratively, the past year. Each one of us has friends and family that are no longer here......toast them,honor them, the friend that I lost would have it no other way!!!!! .....Live!!!!! 

Best wishes for health and happiness in 2012!!!!! Boy, does time fly!!!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / In Memory of Alexander M...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / In Memory of Alexander M...: photocourtesysbeulahonsugarcom Peeps, ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE,' the series of essays regarding fashion which ran during the past two wee...

' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / In Memory of Alexander McQueen



' THE DECEMBER ISSUE,' the series of essays regarding fashion which ran during the past two weeks, is dedicated to the memory of Alexander McQueen.  Earlier this year, the MET/Costume Institute's exhibition entitled ' ALEXANDER MCQUEEN: SAVAGE BEAUTY,' broke attendance records with an estimated 661,509 visitors, and 100,000 copies of the exhibition catalogue sold.  In May through August, fans/followers/devotees/bloggers/fashion-istas/curators/editors/walkers/wanna-bees/wankers/wierdos, assorted persons, as well as personalities from all genres (and sub-genres as well) of society congregated at the temple of his highness to pay respect to his memory, and to view the collection(s).  McQueen created garments of incomparable and haunting beauty.  His runway shows transformed existing notions of beauty, performance, art, identity, politics and couture to a singular aesthetic vision unparalleled in recent history.  He was truly a genius, and dearly missed.  

Thanks for all your recent emails, and please enjoy today's visual treat.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / The Forgotten Ones

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / The Forgotten Ones: photocourtesythesartorialist Peeps, It seems that the fashion world has forgotten the 'mature' woman, you know any of the female sex...

' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / The Forgotten Ones



It seems that the fashion world has forgotten the 'mature' woman, you know any of the female sex who has reached (or passed) the age of 40.  Most ads feature impossibly beautiful girls of 18 thru 26 with dewy young skin, taut muscles and body fat of less than 10%, and skin unmarked by age, experience, or the concerns of family, career, and the travails of everyday life.  I believe that most folks would agree that the scantily clad vixens prancing down the Victoria's Secret runway, or the willowy patrician beauties of Ralph Lauren or Michael Kors' fantasies are a lifetime removed from the average American woman who finds it increasingly difficult to drop four or five thousand dollars on a wool skirt cut for the glamazon whose height is 5'11 (without heels).  My sister complains that, with the exception of the sexless shapes promoted by Eileen Fisher, the conservative offerings of Ann Taylor, and the questionable selection at Chico's, the marketplace has forgotten the fuller body shape of the woman over forty who is a little soft in the tummy and bum-bum, a little loose in the upper arms and thighs, broader in the hips and less firm in the breasts.  Yes, my sister is well aware of the inevitable DVF wrap dress in all its colors, patterns and permutations, and Oscar de La Renta still remains solely the coveted stuff of dreams (or red-carpet events, or black-tie galas).  Slim offerings indeed for a demographic which does not necessarily want to remain as an after-thought, or limited to leisure suits/track-suits/work-suits.

The older woman may also find it difficult to see images in the magazines representing the age group to which she now belongs.  With few exceptions, the targeted audience (15-35 years of age) seems to relish the challenge of higher heels, shorter skirts, tighter tops, and more bling than a ' Bravo house-wife.'  Mindless chatter fill the pages of many publications which seem equally divided between woman as domestic goddess, with stories devoted to floral bouquets, cookie recipes, and cleaning products; or woman as sexual goddess, thus providing lists such as: 101 ways to make love to your husband/positions you never thought existed/look sexier in twenty minutes, and the like.  Thankfully, there is MORE magazine, which under the helm of editor Lesley Jane Seymour, produces numerous essays of depth on topics ranging from the environment, the role of women in the arts and sciences, tips and stories about entrepreneurial risk-takers and their respective journeys from dream to reality; as well as articles on style for the mature woman.  Kudos also to photographer Scott Schuman, whose blog entitled The Sartorialist provides images of human beauty in all its varied forms, including that of the sexy, style-conscious, mature woman.

Please enjoy today's visual treat courtesy of


Friday, December 16, 2011




In an industry allegedly dominated by ego-maniacs, divas, copy-cats, trend-followers, weak talent and the directionless, true talent can be increasingly rare to spot, as well as show.  Indeed, it is on the runway -- that daunting, demanding spectacle of craft/art/performance, where a designer's individual viewpoint is crystallized into magical moments which must be quickly presented within a short time-span allotted between other talents, and before the audience's attention wanders elsewhere.  At the cost of millions per minute, the supporting cast of fitters/makeup artists/hair-dressers/lighting and stage technicians/prop-managers and florists/the DJ, and the bevy of beautiful models all contribute to 'that' moment or moments when the designer's vision is wholly realized. Then after thunderous applause (as well as  favorable reviews and large orders from store buyers and enthusiastic clientele, or lucrative contracts for perfumes/lingerie/accessories and so forth), he or she is suitably feted by the critics, bloggers, editors, and the countless fashionistas/os who have religiously followed every movement or nuance of the journey from student to apprentice to head-designer of a house or atelier.  

Mr Rucci, a native of Philadelphia, has distinguished himself from the ranks.  He trained under Halston after studying at FIT, and in 1994 he launched Chado Ralph Rucci.  In 2002, he became the first American designer in more than 60 years to be invited to show in Paris by the French Chambre Syndicate de la Haute Couture. The New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn writes that, " Mr. Rucci's clothes have a devotion to elegance that can feel as pitiless as a sermon on  a hot summer day." And Robin Givhan of The Washington Post, wrote that, " Rucci's clothes are aspirational in every sense of the word.  They ooze luxury from 100 paces, yet they are not ostentatious.  They look expensive because every seam is perfect, every button exactly placed, every skirt has just the right lift.  No dress of his would dare wrinkle."  Mr Rucci works in a modernist vein, and is very inspired by the Spanish master, Balenciaga, who was very concerned with line, form, and the drape.  Rucci excels at making complex construction appear simple; in his hands luxe materials are never heavy or precious, and seemingly float; diverse sources and cultural references are synthesized to a luxurious cohesiveness that is refined, sensuous, and timeless. 

Not unlike the Japanese tea ceremony, Chado, for which his company is named, Mr. Rucci's creations are detailed, exact, and richly austere.  Calmly and quietly, he has become a master of elevated sensibility in a realm celebrating aesthetics and tradition, all the while deftly bridging the past and the future.  He is truly an artist, and his creations transcend mere garments to appropriate the aura (and stature) of Art.

Please enjoy today's visual treat, courtesy of Chado Ralph Rucci.


(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / Ralph Rucci: THE NEXT ...

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / Ralph Rucci: THE NEXT ...: photocourtesyfocusonstyleblog Peeps, In an industry allegedly dominated by ego-maniacs, divas, copy-cats, trend-followers, weak talent...

Monday, December 12, 2011

' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / First Lady Michelle Obama by guest writer Gayle Fleming



First Lady Michelle Obama is the the epitome of style and cool!  Being able to pull off both style and cool as a forty-something woman, and as the First Lady of the most powerful country in the world (I'm being somewhat dramatic and facetious here) is quite a feat.  To be sure, her style has inflamed the wrath of some who think that the First Lady should be more demure in her wardrobe choices.  Read that as:  dowdy, boring, status quo, white bread, if you will.  And those uppity arms.  How dare she put the arms of the average American woman to shame!  But then I'm sure that Michelle Obama has never done anything status quo, and growing up in a working-class black family in Chicago, I'm also pretty sure she learned how to create great style with less.

When she's buying off-the-rack clothes, which she still does, she has to confront the reality of the body types that most clothes are made for.  First of all, she's really tall so she is already not of normal body-type.  She also has an extremely high waistline, and a fairly small torso.  And then there's THE HIPS.  Mrs. Obama has some serious hips, and without wanting to be disrespectful, all I can say is, ' baby's got back. ' This body-type is fairly typical among black women--smallish torso and wider hips.  Women have been brainwashed into doing everything they can to reduce their hips, or at all costs camouflage them.  As a black woman myself, I totally understand the hip drama.  My nine-year old who is the split image of me, is already asking if she is going to have a big butt.  But our First Lady totally embraces, and I dare say flaunts her assets in the most stylish way.  She acknowledges her high waistline by creating her own style of wearing her belts high.  And she wears lots of wide colorful belts.  In doing so, she accentuates both her small torso and her very attractive hips -- with considerable aplomb!

I'm also struck by her ability to be both cool and elegant.  I don't think that I've ever seen a photo of another First Lady in boots.  I remember going 'Wow!' when I saw this photo of Mrs. Obama and the girls accepting the White House Christmas tree.  This image perfectly demonstrates what I mean by the First Lady being the epitome of style and cool.

Of course like most people, I love seeing her dressed-up for formal events.  And she never disappoints.  Most recently she was stunning in a deep blue gown at the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.  Again, she's not afraid to accentuate her figure with wide tulle at the hem of the fitted gown.

And how could you not love a First Lady who goes to Target in a baseball cap, and no make-up.  How down to earth, as well as confident and comfortable she must feel to go shopping, looking just like the rest of us.

Love her, and love her style!

Gayle Fleming

Saturday, December 10, 2011

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / Flights of Fancy

(VISUAL TREATS) For All of My Design-Obsessed Peeps: ' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / Flights of Fancy: photoannieleibovitz Peeps, The lines of traffic continue to snake around the entrances leading to the parking roofs at the local mall...

' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / Flights of Fancy



The lines of traffic continue to snake around the entrances leading to the parking roofs at the local malls. I know this from listening to the woes of friends whose kids drag them there, tiredly clutching wads of discount coupons, and searching for bargains.  In stark contrast are super-savvy shoppers who now compare prices at the sites of on-line merchants, hit the button, and have gifts delivered right to the doorstep.  Both groups approach the spirit of the holiday season somewhat differently; I sympathize with those e-shoppers who strive to keep stress to a minimum by avoiding the crowds swarming up and down tight aisles; the inevitable arguments over parking space rights, as well as the shortage of knowledgeable staff at the counters.  On occasion, I experience some nostalgia for the old times, as I have completely abandoned gift-giving at Christmas; my preference is a little splurge at birthdays or high-school graduations of my many nieces and nephews, and for myself, large glass vases of paper-whites.  Some shoppers will hit the stores on Boxing Day with the intent of purchasing for the following year, a practice that reveals steely optimism which I admire; both patience to brave the cold queued outside the Hallmark store(s) where cards are half-price, as well as in the belief that next Christmas we will all be there (or here again).

Please enjoy tonight's visual treat, and have a wonderful weekend...


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

' THE DECEMBER ISSUE ' / NOTES (on picturing ourselves)



Frequently fashion photography has been taken to task for perpetuating stereotypes, which when unsettling to the general public's perception of themselves, has generated plenty of backlash from talking-heads, the press, government-appointed advisory groups, and so forth.  Historically, the two areas of contention where much criticism has been directed are: sex and the manner in which magazines, editors, art-directors and photographers have choose to present accepted/forbidden/questionable states of sensuality, human interaction, love and affection; also on the watch-list is the issue of religion, where anything other than devout reverence is largely avoided for fear of censure, the loss of revenue by advertisers' sponsorship, or on occasion, the cancellation of subscriptions.  Violence rarely bodes well with the fashion crowd, and is best left for speciality publications which cater to the 'tastes' of another audience, such as the hordes who flock to slasher movies and purchase electronic games, where fueled by testosterone (and substances best left unsaid), the end of civilization and a free-form anarchy is manipulated by one touch of a gloved-finger.  To its credit, fashion photography has been on the forefront of advocating changes in societal mores by reflecting the continuous shift in our culture's tastes, values, and expectations of ourselves vis-a-vis our civilization's recorded history.  Where fashion photography excels is in the selling of fantasy through imaginative layouts where art, design, and lust intertwine, and the story is personified by gorgeous models who capture our interest, hold us captive, and ever so delicately (and deliberately) manipulate our fears and desires.

Richard Avedon, Victor Skrebneski, Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, and Steve Miesel are masters of their craft, almost effortlessly conjuring heavenly worlds where beautiful creatures pose/frolic/cavort without hesitancy or guile; and readers such as ourselves, swoon.  In my mind, these images are forever imprinted, and truthfully, if I stumbled upon China Machado or Christy Turlington sipping tea in my galley kitchen, for a second or two (or three), nothing would strike me as strange or unusual.  I believe that this is the seductive power of Art, to blur the divisions between the real and imagined, the mundane and the celebratory (when the mechanics of technology merges with the depth of human emotions) and the mind follows the murmurs of the heart into believing the impossible.  That we, with just a drop of scent will be insatiable seducers, or that, slipping on that little tweed jacket, can embody the spirit (and look) of civilized gentility in that much-copied (and easily recognizable) WASP via RL sensibility, is precisely the the name of the game (of the fashion magazines).  Members of the sterner sex are not immune to the promised fantasies of smart advertising, evidenced by the success of top-shelf liquors, Saville Row tailors, and foreign sports-car capable of sudden flight (and sensuous victory?).  

The words of an astute gentleman whose name slips me, are:  There are no ugly women {or men}, only lazy ones.  Besides pure indulgence in the creativity presented on the printed page, the motivated among us can push ourselves to be more attractive both to ourselves and others by dressing and grooming ourselves to present our best possible selves; letting that inner light within all of us shine every more clear.  As well as disarming the complacent, detractors and whiners among us with our inner confidence and good looks.  That, combined with charm and politeness can get anyone immediately beyond the VIP rope, or the best table and complimentary drinks, or a promotion at work.  Honestly, who amongst us would choose to be stuck with the drudge or wall-flower, while the rest of the gang whoops it up on the dance-floor/in the board-room/at the chef's table.  Fashionistas (and fashionistos) work at it, and then some; and for this they must be applauded.  Never a stray lock, an extra inch, an unwanted pound, or scuffed heels.  Sure, it takes work; but consider the alternatives, and then slowly put down the gravy-boat/turn off the TV, and get fully involved in your own life.  Really!

 Please enjoy today's visual treat (of super-model/athlete Jeff Aquilon), and thanks for all your comments and suggestions.


PS:  Tonight's soundtrack is Breathe by Telepopmusic.  Languid/dreamy/seductive, like a Chanel No 5 ad, as I discovered on their you-tube video.